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Wed. 10:14 a.m.: Latest virus headlines — World Bank OKs $12B for vaccines, tests

A member of the medical staff inserts a cotton swab into a tube after a PCR smear to test for COVID-19 at a corona test center todau in Berlin, Germany. (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP)

Here are summaries of the latest The Associated Press coronavirus stories from around the world, including:

— World Bank OKs $12B for virus vaccines, tests;

— Russia sets daily infection record with more than 14,000;

— Pope Francis seen without mask while greeting the faithful;

— India confirms more than 63,000 new cases of coronavirus;

— Sweden city mandates masks for health care workers in close contact with elderly;

— Colorado governor pleads with residents to stay home.

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WASHINGTON — The World Bank says it has approved $12 billion in financing to help developing countries buy and distribute coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments.

The bank says the aim is to support the vaccination of up to 1 billion people and to signal to researchers and the pharmaceutical industry that people living in poor countries need access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

It is part of a wider World Bank Group package of up to $160 billion to help developing countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The bank says its pandemic response programs are reaching 111 countries.

Development and deployment of such preventive vaccines is crucial to helping stem outbreaks of the coronavirus that has killed more than 1 million people and sickened more than 38 million.

The world’s richest countries have locked up most of the potential vaccine supply through 2021, raising concerns poor and vulnerable communities won’t get the shots.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has apologized to the faithful for being unable to greet them and shake hands following a coronavirus spike in Italy and the Vatican.

Instead of wading into the crowd to embrace the sick and kiss babies during his weekly general audience Wednesday, Francis walked in through a back door directly onto the stage

At 83 and with part of a lung missing since an illness in his 20s, the pope would be at high-risk for COVID-19 complications. Yet he has been reluctant to wear a face mask and appeared without one again Wednesday, even though many of his entourage and all the Swiss Guards wore masks.

He told the crowd: “I would like to come down as usual and get close to you to greet you, but with new prescriptions, we would better keep our distances.”

This week, four Swiss Guards tested positive for the coronavirus and were in isolation. There have been 19 total cases in the Vatican. The Vatican amended its mask mandates to conform with all of Italy, requiring them indoors and out.

While Francis was seen donning a mask a few weeks ago, the Vatican has not responded to questions about why he isn’t wearing one now. Francis often seems out of breath and speaks in a whisper because of his lung condition, suggesting that wearing a mask might be particularly uncomfortable.

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GENEVA — Authorities in Switzerland are reporting a new daily record of 2,823 confirmed coronavirus cases, with young adults as the most affected demographic.

The Federal Office of Public Health says that brings the total to 68,704 confirmed cases. It recorded eight new deaths for a confirmed total of 1,816.

At a peak between late March and mid-April, Switzerland was recording more than 40 COVID-related deaths per day.

The age group 20-29 has tallied most of the new cases, while older groups were generally more affected in the early phases of the pandemic.

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MOSCOW — Russian authorities have reported a record 14,000 new coronavirus cases, the latest daily spike in infections.

Russia, which has the world’s fourth-largest confirmed coronavirus caseload of more than 1.3 million, has been reporting over 10,000 new cases for 11 straight days, The 14,231 new infections today is the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic.

Most of the virus restrictions in the county have been lifted over the summer. Despite the rapid resurgence of the outbreak, Russian authorities have dismissed suggestions of a second national lockdown.

In Moscow, which has been reporting over 4,000 new cases every day since Saturday, officials recommended that the elderly to self-isolate at home and ordered employers to have 30 percent of their staff work from home. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin also extended school holidays by one week.

Today, Sobyanin said school students from 6th to 11th grades will shift to online studies for two weeks beginning Monday. Pupils in 1st to 5th grades will continue attending schools as usual.

“Older school students are more susceptible to the risk of contracting the coronavirus,” Sobyanin said.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — For the second consecutive day, the United Arab Emirates has reported a record number of coronavirus cases, with 1,431 new infections.

The caseload brings the total number in the country over 110,000, including 450 fatalities. Recorded infections have soared in recent weeks as authorities have relaxed restrictions and resumed schools for in-person instruction. Dubai, the region’s business hub, recently reopened its airport for international travelers.

While coming amid an aggressive testing campaign, the upward trend has raised fears that authorities could reinstate lockdowns in parts of the country that rely heavily on tourism.

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s third-largest city has decided to temporarily make faces masks mandatory for health care workers who are in close contact with elderly.

Gisela Ost, head of administration of Malmo, the southern Sweden city of nearly 345,000, called it “an extra precaution” for when staff are within 1 meter (3.3 feet) of an elderly person.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency says for the time being it didn’t recommend face masks in public but adds “there may be situations where face masks can be useful.”

Sweden which has had 100,654 cases and 5,899 deaths, has in recent days seen an increase in cases and there have been “some worrying signs that nursing homes may begin to be affected,” according to chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

Sweden has opted for a much debated COVID-19 approach of keeping large parts of the society open.

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BERLIN — The number of newly reported coronavirus cases in Germany has passed 5,000 for the first time since mid-April.

The country’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, said today that a further 5,132 infections and 43 deaths from COVID-19 were recorded over the past day.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting the governors of Germany’s 16 states today to discuss which measures to take in response to the growing case load.

Officials are particularly concerned that COVID-19 infections might increase among older people, who are more likely to suffer serious illnesses.

So far, some 620 people in Germany are receiving intensive care treatment for COVID-19.

Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has recorded a total of 334,585 coronavirus infections, of which almost 282,000 are considered to have recovered. There have been 9,677 deaths in the country from COVID-19.

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LONDON — Health officials are scheduled to meet today to discuss whether to add areas of northern England, including Manchester and Lancashire, to the highest-risk tier, meaning additional anti-coronavirus measures such as closing pubs could soon be imposed there. Only Liverpool was placed in the highest-risk category when the plan was unveiled Monday.

The discussions come as the regional government in Northern Ireland prepares to announce even tougher measures, including a two-week school closure. Northern Ireland has the highest infection rate among the U.K.’s four nations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being criticized by all sides two days after announcing his three-tier approach to controlling the virus.

A report released Tuesday showed that the government’s science advisers have called for tougher measures, including a two- to three-week national lockdown. The opposition Labour Party has called for that advice to be followed, while members of Johnson’s Conservative Party say the measures already in place go too far and are damaging the economy.

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BERLIN — Berlin’s Staatskapelle orchestra under star conductor Daniel Barenboim has called off a three-country European tour planned for November because of the coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties of juggling different countries’ travel restrictions.

The Staatskapelle had planned to play Beethoven works in Paris, Athens and Vienna between Nov. 6 and 22.

The orchestra said today that it had proven impossible to go ahead with the tour, “not least because of the complex situation with travel to three countries, each with different travel and quarantine rules.” It said the orchestra hopes to be able to rearrange the concerts in the future.

The decision comes after new coronavirus infections hit a record daily increase last week across Europe.

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NEW DELHI — India has confirmed more than 63,000 new cases of the coronavirus, an increase of over 8,000 from the previous day but still far fewer than it was reporting a month ago, when the virus was at its peak in the country.

The Health Ministry reported 63,509 new cases today, raising India’s total to more than 7.2 million, second in the world behind the U.S. The ministry also reported 730 fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 110,586. The country was seeing more than 1,000 deaths per day last month.

According to the Health Ministry, India’s average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9-15, when the virus peaked. Over the last month, the country has been seeing a trend of declining cases on a week-to-week basis.

On Tuesday, India registered 55,342 new cases, its lowest single-day tally since mid-August.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia has reported a steep rise in new daily infections, which reached a record of 748 cases in the past 24 hours. Four people died of COVID-19 in the same period.

Health authorities today said anti-virus measures must be implemented to stop the surge in infections. The previous record of 542 cases in 24 hours came earlier this month.

Croatia has introduced mandatory masks in closed spaces and limited gatherings and numbers of people in bars and restaurants to try and curb the spread of the virus.

The country has seen a rise in cases since the end of the summer, when hundreds of thousands of tourist visited the scenic Adriatic Sea nation of 4.2 million people.

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia has reported a huge jump in daily new infections, which reached 707 cases today compared to nearly 400 a day before.

Authorities say four people have died and additional 30 have been hospitalized. Today’s number of new cases is the highest in the country of 2 million people since the start of the outbreak.

Slovenia’s government is expected to strengthen anti-virus measures later today. Officials have said the measures could include lockdown of certain municipalities, closing of bars and restaurants and gyms.

Authorities could also ban religious ceremonies and weddings in certain municipalities.

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — An estimated 600 residents of the U.S. territory of American Samoa were away when the governor closed its borders in March to keep the cluster of Pacific islands free from the coronavirus. Most have not been allowed to return.

The governor has said he understands the plight of the stranded residents but has to protect against accidental virus transmission by people without symptoms. He is reviewing a petition by stranded residents demanding repatriation.

But amid a spike in coronavirus cases in Hawaii, he has asked the only air carrier with regularly scheduled service between Honolulu and Pago Pago to suspend flights through November.

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BEIJING — China says it has carried out more than 4.2 million tests in the northern port city of Qingdao, with no new cases of coronavirus found among the almost 2 million sets of results received.

The city has reported a total of 12 cases, six with symptoms and six without, since the new outbreak was first spotted over the weekend at a hospital.

China today reported 27 new cases of coronavirus, including 13 new cases of local transmission and 14 cases brought from outside the country.

China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths among 85,611 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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DENVER — Colorado is experiencing another surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, prompting Gov. Jared Polis to plead with residents to wear masks, stay home as much as possible, and maintain social distancing practices.

As of Tuesday, Colorado’s three-day average positivity rate was 5.4 percent, and the state recorded 1,000 new cases both on Saturday and on Monday, the highest daily numbers recorded during the pandemic, Polis said.

About 290 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest total since May 31, The Denver Post reported.

Polis didn’t suggest he was contemplating renewed mandatory restrictions on business or other activities to stem the surge. But he insisted: “If this continues, our hospital capacity will be in jeopardy.”

The World Health Organization recommends trying to keep the positivity rate below 5 percent of all tests. Higher rates suggest authorities are missing large numbers of infections.

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem has blamed South Dakota’s recent surge in coronavirus cases on an increase in testing, even as the state sees a new high in the number of people hospitalized by the virus.

There are currently no open general-care hospital beds in the southeastern part of the state, which contains the two largest hospitals, according to the Department of Health. Hospitals are dealing with both an increase in COVID-19 patients and people needing other medical care.

“We have triple the amount of testing that we are doing in the state of South Dakota, which is why we’re seeing elevated positive cases,” Noem said. “That’s normal, that’s natural, that’s expected.”

The Department of Health reports 302 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized — an all-time high in the state.

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Hospitalizations, virus spread and deaths continued at high levels Tuesday in Iowa on the eve of a campaign rally by President Donald Trump, where Gov. Kim Reynolds and thousands of other Trump supporters will likely defy the governor’s own emergency proclamation to keep distance between people in public places.

A public health emergency proclamation signed by Reynolds requires that organizers of mass gatherings “must ensure at least six feet of physical distance between each group or individual attending alone.” A White House Coronavirus Task Force report on Iowa from Oct. 4 said, “group gathering sizes should be limited.”

Officials at Des Moines International Airport, where the rally will be held in a cargo hangar, have been told to plan for up to 10,000 people.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the event will be in an open-door airplane hangar, and temperature checks will be taken of all participants who will also be issued masks and instructed to wear them.

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